New CEO Cameron and deputy Clegg are pushing through a mix of new and even moderately radical management proposals; every area and department is coming under scrutiny with a view to clearing out dead (or even vaguely Dutch Elm-infected) wood.
Individual productivity is key to effective economic results. The government has, at long last, noticed that this is a problem in the public sector – for example, that 68 per cent of the working day of junior staff in local government is wasted due to poor supervision. There is an old joke about why a civil servant doesn’t look out of the office window in the morning (it would leave them with nothing to do in the afternoon).
I have to say that if I found any member of my staff failing to perform for over half the day, they’d face the axe.
We all examine our company structure in times of crisis. The government is currently examining the degree of centralisation in financial controls and veering towards the originally-Labour doctrine of giving more and more power back to local authorities. After all, one’s individual “managers” are in the best position to decide how to run their “departments”.
It is undoubtedly possible to achieve outstanding results within the public sector by sheer good management principles. Witness for example, Tony McGuirk, chief fire officer in Merseyside, who has achieved outstanding results both in terms of cost cutting and increasing service (halving the fire fighters and yet halving the deaths from fire in his area).
Yet “good management” can incite, fear, panic and sometimes attempted revolt. McGuirk, for example, has had to apologise for comments made on efficiency and under-performing staff in order to placate the unions.
Good change management needs first class PR. The government needs to continue to sell the idea of its reforms with some sensational advertising zeal, rather than preaching too much austerity, doom, gloom and cuts.
Avoiding the double dip is going to take not just some fairly radical plans, but honest changes of direction, some unlikely bedfellows working alongside each other and brilliant change management.